Firestorm 6.0.1: Animesh Early Access

On Sunday December 16th, 2018, the Firestorm team issued Firestorm 6.0.1, which includes Animesh support.

Note that this update is being classified as a “public beta”, because further Firestorm-specific Animesh optimisations are being planned. This means there will be a further “full release” is being planned for  January 2019.

However, while Firestorm 6.0.1.56538 may be classed as a”beta”, it should be considered as stable and as bug-free as any previous release.

In keeping with my usual approach to Firestorm releases, what follows is an overview of the release, highlighting some of the more significant changes I feel will be of most interest to users.

Please use the table of contents on the right to jump to any specific topic of interest. Full details of all changes, and contributor credits can be found in the official release notes.

Table of Contents

 

The Usual Before We Begin

As per my usual preamble:

  • There is no need to perform a clean install with this release if you do not wish to.
  • Do, however, make sure you back-up all your settings safely so you can restore them after installing 6.0.1.

Note that as a beta release, Firestorm 6.0.1.56538 will not overwrite any existing release version of Firestorm you may have installed, but will be installed into a separate folder / location. However, note that swapping back and forth between this beta and another version of Firestorm will wipe your cache each time.

Lab Derived Updates

Core Updates

This version brings Firestorm up to parity with Linden Lab release viewers through to version 6.0.0.520636 (Animesh), including the recent Rakomelo, Quinquina and Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil Maintenance viewers, and incorporates Vivox Version 4.9.0002.30313 (Mac and Windows).

Animesh

For those who may be unaware of it (!), Animesh allows the avatar skeleton to be applied to any suitable rigged mesh object. This, together with suitable animations and scripts placed within the contents of the object, allow it to be animated in much the same way as the Second Life avatar. This opens up a whole range of opportunities for content creators and animators to provide things like independently moveable pets / creatures, and animated scenery features.

While Animesh is likely to primarily be used by content creators, it has been designed so that any suitable rigged mesh can be converted to Animesh directly from the Build / Edit floater (see below, left). Do be aware, however that simply converting an object will not cause it to start animating – you’ll need suitable animations and a script to run them.

Like any other object utilising animation, this is done by adding the animations and scripts via the Edit > Contents tab for your converted object.

Left: any suitable rigged mesh object can be converted into Animesh by adding animation scripts and toggling the Animesh check-box in the viewer. Right: one possible outcome of Animesh is that over time, it might discourage the use of alpha-flipping to simulate animation. This involves creating multiple versions of something like an animal (or parts of an animal) and then using a script to reveal them in turn, while keeping the other hidden with alpha masks. While it results in simulated animation (such as a squirrel climbing a bird feeder), alpha flipping is very performance / rendering intensive (r)
How To Get Started With Animesh

The best way to get started with Animesh is to use the available resources. These include:

Firestorm Animesh Additions

Derender Animesh: Despite the hoped-for performance improvements Animesh might allow when compared to alpha flipping, these will be the potential for performance impacts in regions / parcels with a large number of Animesh objects moving around.

To help mitigate this, Firestorm 6.0.1 includes an option to derender all Animesh in a scene (Developer menu > Rendering > Derender All Animesh).

Note: Derendered Animesh will reappear after a teleport or re-logging.

Also, Firestorm includes a number of other Animesh tweaks:

  • Auto-scaling amortisation of the new Animesh dynamic bounding box calculations. This fix limits the overhead of the new dynamic bounding box calculations to AvatarExtentRefreshMaxPerBatch per AvatarExtentRefreshPeriodBatch frames. The default is 5 avatars per 4 frames, so in a busy region, 25 avatars would take 20 frames to refresh the bounding boxes.
  • Performance tweaks by reducing Matrix operations per render pass.
  • More JointMatrix Palette caching tweaks:
    • The cache has been moved to drawable for more benefit (reduces CPU overhead when rendering shadows and materials by caching the jointmatrixpallette).
    • Sacrifices some potential cache locality but savings seem to outweigh this.

Other Lab-Derived Updates

Additional Lab updates worth noting are:

  • BUG-216339Add a  Click to: action to the Build / Edit floater to disable clicking objects that can be set per-object in a linkset – see Left-Click None Option, below, for more.
  • BUG-216416 – Add a transparency indicator for invisiprims. When “Highlight Transparent” (CTRL+ALT+T) is used, invisiprims will now be highlighted in green.
  • BUG-225670 – Include the full Windows 10 build number in Help > About Second Life and logs
  • TextureLoadFullRes setting no longer persistent, to avoid issues with accidentally setting it on systems which cannot handle the memory load.
  • The CTRL key must be held when dragging inventory folders into in-world objects. This change was primarily made to address accidental inventory “loss” by dragging a folder of no copy items into an in-world object.
  • Fix for your avatar not standing up after pressing Shift+Alt+S keyboard short-cut.

Continue reading “Firestorm 6.0.1: Animesh Early Access”

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Firestorm’s Pets for New Residents 2018

Do you have a wearable / follow pet that you no longer use, and that is Transferable? Why not donate it to the Firestorm team for gifting to a new SL user this Christmas?

You may remember that in August, the Firestorm team ran a fun-raiser, asking people to donate their unwanted gacha items?

Well for the end of 2018, they are again asked for the donation of items – but this time with a very different aim in mind, as they explain in the following  Firestorm wiki article:

With Christmas around the corner we think of ways to spread the cheer and give gifts to those who are dear to us. This Christmas, how about extending that love to the ones brand new to Second Life, to let them see what a wondrous place they have entered with loving and generous people.

Every year we are presented with amazing new pets from talented creators and they seem to get better and better with each new creation. And although they are just virtual companions, these pets have the ability to make the times we are here without human contact seem less lonely. They transcend the realm of mere fashion accessories to a loving addition to this our Second Lives.

When the new loves come along, our past companions are packed away in a folder, maybe to come out another day. So why not make that day today and why not pass them on to be loved by another.

Many entering Second Life are shy and overwhelmed with learning the basics. Having a virtual friend and companion to share those first tentative steps with could make a world of difference. Just think your well-loved pet going on to give the warmth of friendship to another, touching their second lives and bringing joy to their hearts.

So for December 2018 make it a true month of giving and pass on your Ex-Loved pets so that they too get a chance at a Second Life.

Kindly contact Kio Feila and entrust her with your Ex-Loved Pets and know that they will be warming the hearts of someone new this Christmas.

Christmas is, as they say, the time for giving. So, if you do have a pet or pets now forever kennelled, caged or locked in a folder in your inventory, and which do have suitable permissions for passing them on to others,  why not follow the article’s suggestion and donate them so that they might get to have a second life with a new owner? Just drop a line to Kio via the link above!

Firestorm: fake website and downloads warning

There are always certain risks involved in on-line living. With Second Life, we’ve all likely seen or heard of various scams and attempts to either data-scrape or gain people’s account details through phishing and other means.

Another area of risk is using viewers from untrusted sources, making a careful checking of linking to TPV sites mandatory (e.g. by checking them through the Third Party Viewer Directory page on the SL wiki) – particularly when they appear in note cards or pop-up in group chat sessions, and so on.

I raise this because Firestorm has been the subject of fake accounts posting links to a completely fake Firestorm viewer website.

Group and individual IMs have been circulating from fake “Firestorm” accounts, pointing to a fake Firestorm website & viewer downloads – with the Windows download link infected

The website – note the addresses arrowed above – is a scam site that is particularly nasty, as the Windows download link is infected – see virustotal.com – and so should not be used.

For clarity, Firestorm’s actual web address is: http://www.firestormviewer.org/ – no “pro” or anything else in the URL. Furthermore, outside of their own support and test groups, Firestorm do not spam other groups or individuals with links for downloading their viewer.

Currently, the Firestorm team is trying to get the false site taken down, and Linden Lab are working with them to ban the fake accounts.

However, if you do receive an IM similar to the one shown above, fielding fake website URLs, or see a similar message in a Group IM or notice, please don’t simply dismiss it. Linden Lab have requested those in receipt on such messages / notices should file an Abuse Report.

When filing a report, make sure you take a screen shot showing the message / notice displayed in your viewer – the abuse report screen shot feature will automatically capture open IM windows, etc. Reports can be filed under the Harassment category.

If you need assistance with raising an Abuse Report, please refer to my Abuse Reports tutorial, written with the assistance of Linden Lab’s Governance team.

Firestorm viewer seeks volunteers

Are you a little bit crazy? Have a slight taste for personal suffering? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to develop a personality tic? You might be perfect for our team!

– From the Firestorm blog post on volunteers

This is light-hearted start to a blog post by Firestorm’s Jessica Lyon that has a serious intent: a call for assistance from Firestorm users willing to give some of their time to help support both the Firestorm viewer and the Firestom team’s other activities in Second Life.

As the most popular Second Life viewer (and a viewer with a strong following in OpenSim), Firestorm actually requires a lot of upkeep; not just in maintaining and extending the code either by exposing debug features provided by Linden Lab or through the provision of dedicated code contributions, but also in ensuring the viewer is fit for purpose ahead of any release and in providing that same vast user community with ongoing support and assistance.

As such, Firestorm is looking for volunteers willing to join the following teams:

  • Firestorm Support: helping residents solve problems they may encounter with installing and using the Firestorm viewer through the in-world support groups and by filing support tickets on the Firestorm Jira (bug-reporting system).
  • Firestorm QA Team: helping to ensure each viewer release is as good as it can be, by finding and reporting bugs (part of which means accepting frequent crashes). But it also means getting to see, use and test new features before the rest of the user base.

You can read more about the roles through the blog, and the Support Team Application Form.

Firestorm are also looking for people to help with work at the seven regions of the Firestorm Community Gateway

In addition, Firestorm is looking for mentors to help assist new users at the Firestorm Community Gateway. The work is rich and diverse, including providing insight, advice, and direction, responding to questions of every possible variation on the viewer and Second Life, helping new residents learn about the viewer and interact with the virtual world, and more.

Those interested in the role are invited to visit the Social Club at the Firestorm Gateway in world, where a red box can be found, offering an application form, which should be posted back to the box when completed.

Find out more via the official Firestorm blog post.

Firestorm fund-raiser

Firestorm fund-raising market

The Firestorm team has launched a fund-raiser, primarily to help cover the cost of a new main server, used to host the team’s JIRA, web site, wiki, code repository, and so on. However, as the Firestorm blog post on the matter also notes, the team also have recurring costs involved in the license they have to pay in order to use the Kakadu codec for rendering in the viewer, and costs involved in running the land costs (albeit subsidised by the Lab) involved with the Firestorm Community Gateway.

To this end, the new fund-raiser is planned as a hopefully long-term event, and also designed to help people get rid of their unwanted gacha items.

Located over the Firestorm gateway regions is a “Firestorm market” featuring stalls and vendor boards where visitors can purchase collected and donated gacha items. Note that despite the confusing blog title, this is not itself a gacha event – there are no machines, just the opportunity to buy individual items and complete sets previously sold via gacha vendors, which the Firestorm team have collected or have received as donations.

The prices of items vary throughout, and many of them might well be offered under the acronym WTGTG – when they’re gone, they gone.

Firestorm fund-raising market

Anyone wishing to donate items can do so by contacting Kio Feila in-world.

In addition, those wishing to help the Firestorm team but who don’t find anything of interest on sale, can make direct L$ donations, or flow links to the Firestorm listings on the Marketplace, which male and female Firestorm Jackets can be purchased, with all funds also going towards helping cover the team’s costs.

All funds raised will be used directly and solely towards  the Firestorm operating costs and overhead; all Firestorm team members are volunteers who receive no financial or L$ compensation.

Kokua update, MetaChat issues and Firestorm version block

A quick round-up of news relating to a handful of viewers and clients.

Kokua

Kokua 64 bit (Windows, Mac and Linux) updated both the RLV (5.1.7.43693) and non-RLV (5.1.6.43692) flavours of the viewer on Sunday, August 11th. I’ve not had time to drive the update – and my not be able to, due to other commitments. However, the core of the update brings the viewer to parity with the SL viewer 5.1.7 code base, and offers some updates from the Kokua team, described in the release notes as follows:

In addition the options for configuring the chat range rings and colours move from the Kokua General preferences tab to Kokua Chat which as well as being more logical also frees up space needed in the RLV version for a new option on the General tab.

The RLV version gains an option on the Kokua General tab which allows @standtp to be disabled. This has been added because @standtp tends to operate in various counter-intuitive ways despite operating as intended.

Here’s one scenario that illustrates the problem:-

  • @standtp is applied to the avatar.
  • The avatar hitches to (sits on) a cart.
  • The avatar pulls the cart from location A to location B.
  • The avatar is unhitched from the cart (stands up).
  • At that point @standtp teleports them back to location A.

Links

MetaChat

MetaChat the iOS client  is having problems courtesy of Apple. The app was removed from the iStore on August 9th, as part of a purge by Apple on “gambling apps”.

Enquiries have been lodged with Apple on when / if the app will be allowed to re-list, but thus far, no response has been given.

In the meantime, versions already downloaded  / downloaded and installed will still work, this move by Apple only affects the client’s listing on the iStore.

iOS / MetChat users can read more on the MetaChat blog, where updates will also be posted.

Firestorm Version Block

A reminder to Firestorm users, Firestorm 5.0.1.52150 (released December, 2016) will be blocked from Tuesday, August 14th, in keeping with the Firestorm team’s policy of only allowing the current, and the two version immediately prior to it.

This means that if you are still used Firestorm 5.0.1, you need to update to a more recent version: 5.0.7, 5.011 or the current 5.1.7 release.

To find out more about why Firestorm versions are blocked, please read this blog post from the Firestorm team.